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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 16, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup Championship Contenders Press Conference. I'm Chris DeVoda.
In merely three years, it is obvious that the NASCAR Chase for the NEXTEL Cup has transformed our sport, attracting new fans while reenergizing old ones. The Chase is the reason the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series is more exciting than ever. It is the reason why NASCAR has its rightful place in the heart and minds of sports fans, not just during the season but year-round.
And of course, it the reason we are here today in this great city leading up to what is promising to be a great race on Sunday, the Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway. NASCAR's playoff system, so controversial when first introduced in 2004, not only now is accepted and acclaimed. That acceptance and acclamation are easy to understand when you come to your season finale with five drivers still in contention for the series championship. An exciting situation that has happened only twice before in the history of NASCAR's premiere series, and one of those times occurring the year the Chase format began in 2004.
Now I would like to go ahead and in success introduce those five drivers. First our Chase points leader, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson. Our second place driver, he's in the #17 DeWalt Ford for Roush Racing, the 2003 series champion, Matt Kenseth. In third place, the driver of the #29GM Goodwrench Reese's Chevrolet for Richard Childers Racing, he has already clinched the NASCAR Busch Series title, Kevin Harvick. In fourth place, he has been the top-running Rookie of the Year all season, driver of the Joe Gibbs racing #11 FedEx Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin. And our fifth place driver, he's in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
And to say a few words, here is the president of Homestead Miami, Speedway, Curtis Gray.
CURTIS GRAY: Thank you very much. I want to welcome everybody to South Florida and especially here to Doral, the official media hotel of Ford Championship weekend. I want to thank our partners at Ford and of course of Nextel for putting on this event and also the media hotel and the entire week of activities. I thank the media, also, for covering our week of activities.
It truly is becoming a championship, in all aspects of professional sports, I think this will become one of the biggest in all of sports, the Ford Championship weekend. I want to thank these guys for putting on a heck of a show the first nine races of the Chase, can't wait until Sunday. We think we've got the perfect market to end the season and host the championship. I want to thank the City of Miami and all of South Florida and these drivers, again, we think we have got the perfect racetrack to end the season. It's very fair, very competitive, and if you all need anything during the weekend, please let us know at the Speedway. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Curtis. Next please welcome NASCAR's vice president of competition, the former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup crew chief himself, Robin Pemberton.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Glad to see you finally got a shirt. Good afternoon, everybody. On behalf of NASCAR, chairman Brian France and the France family, and president Mike Helton, I would like to extend a welcome to all of you for today's 2006 Chase to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions press conference. Appreciate everybody being here.
It's hard to believe that the 2006 finale is just days away. It just seems like a few weeks ago we were in Daytona Beach getting ready to start speed weeks, and get ready for the next season. It's hard to believe that.
We've seen the competition for the series title tightly contested more than it has ever been in the history, and judging from the fact that the five drivers who are still eligible for the coveted championship and the fact that they have got 17 victories, 59 Top-5 finishes, and these five drivers have led 36 percent of the laps for the season; I think it's safe to say that our fans have enjoyed a great NASCAR racing season.
As NASCAR is poised to crown the new champion Sunday at Homestead Miami Speedway, our congratulations go out to these five championship-contending drivers. You and your teams have had a terrific season, and each one of you has represented the sport with class and integrity. We look forward to crowning one of you the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series champion Sunday night. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'd like to start the question portion of our press conference by getting a brief opening statement from each of our championship contenders. So guys, question is for each of you. In general what is the confidence level of and you your team heading into Sunday's Ford 400? Jimmie, we'll start with you.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We feel good. We feel like on the mile and a half, two-mile tracks, you know, we've been up front and competing for wins in each of them. This track has shown some similarities to other tracks we've been so, so we feel confident with the package we're bringing and the car that we're bringing and hopefully we can have a clean race on Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Matt?
MATT KENSETH: I feel pretty good about it. I've been all kind of gloom and doom the raft four or five weeks the way we've been running. Sometimes the thing kind of works in cycles and I think we're kind of due for a good run. We've had some bad ones and we're due here to come strong and you never wish anything bad on Jimmie, but there's a lot of things that can happen, and it's only 60 points or 65 points or something like that. There's always a lot of cars on the lead lap, so I think it's going to come down -- I think it's going to be a close race. I think it's going to come down to the wire.
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, obviously we feel really good coming into this weekend. After last week, we ran really good. We had a really good test down here and just one of the racetracks I enjoy coming to. Just looking forward to being a part of it and racing to the end and seeing what happens.
THE MODERATOR: Denny?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, for myself, you know, we're kind of the unknown. We haven't really run a full race here yet, so we don't know exactly yet what we're going to have here. In testing, Gibbs whole organization -- usually if we're 40th fastest, we're pretty happy. We usually come back with a lot better stuff. I think we're somewhere in the 30s in testing. So hopefully it should be pretty fast.
THE MODERATOR: Dale?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We tested pretty decent. We haven't really run that good here in a long time, so we tested really, really hard. Martin's car was really, really fast, so hopefully we learned a little bit from that, and we'll see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to open it up for questions now.
Q. Jimmie, you've run really well coming in -- inaudible -- what would it mean to win the race and clinch the championship that way?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think our goal is to come down and try to keep this weekend as similar to other weekends in the Chase or other weekends in the season and focus on being the best car in practice, being a contender for the pole and contender for the win. We're going to try really hard to keep that mind-set. Where that puts us, I'm not sure. I have a lot of confidence in the package we've been bringing to the mile and a half, two-mile tracks lately.
If we're in a position to win, great. If not, the goal is to be the champion and we want to do the right things to be the champion. I don't think it would be smart to take unneeded risks if I don't need to.
So it's just one of those things we're going to have to play it by ear and see what's going on during the race, how the race develops and what we need it do during the race. If it means -- and it wouldn't mean that we need to win the race to be the champion, but there's no telling what spot I might have to get into to be the champion. I'll do everything I can at that point.
Q. You talked about pretty much since the middle of the season that you had a different feeling about the season and you said to us a couple of weeks ago, you go to sleep with a smile on your face, etc.; does that feeling continue now, or because the hour draws near, does anxiety start to creep back in?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The anxiety and butterflies I think always will be there. I have a very good outlook on the way our cars are going to drive -- the tracks, I should say, in the Chase that are coming to us. As a team we are a lot stronger this year and have a better mind-set than we have the four years we've been in the sport. There's just a lot of things going in the right direction. I'm excited to go to the track. I'm excited to drive these race cars. So I'm just keeping that momentum and that mind-set going and definitely carrying into this weekend, there's no doubt as the race draws near or even in parts of the race, that my mind and probably all of our minds at some point will start playing games on each driver.
It's just one of those things that takes place. It just the pressure that comes with it. I think that's what makes everybody special different up here is you're able to deal with those pressures and deal with those things and be excited about it and perform when you're in that moment.
Q. Has this week been any different personally as far as what's on the line going in? Have you done anything different?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Not really. Same stuff. Took Monday for myself. Tuesday I went to the shot. Shot my XM radio show. Visited with the crew guys. Yesterday I shot a spot for a sponsor and been here. So it's really been just a normal, typical week. And by design, my wife and our staff, everyone around HMS, we've tried to keep everything the same, just business as usual.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That was so early in the season, I didn't think that it would derail our championship hopes. You know, looking back on it, I think it's helped our race team. It's made Chad Gnaus a smarter, stronger crew chief. Same for me as a driver; team is stronger and smarter and we've matured a lot through it all.
Looking back on it, I hated going through that experience. It was attention that we didn't want for the 48 team and for the Chad and for the whole organization. But we've learned a lot from it, and I think we're stronger today because of it?
Q. If Jimmie has a problem, how do you guys go into the race, what's your preparation knowing you can't control what the 48 team does -- in case the opportunity to win the championship presents itself?
MATT KENSETH: I think it's the same as any other weekend. I don't think that you really worry about the other three or four drivers, you know, at the moment. If you get in that situation during the race and the 48 has a problem or, you know, flat tire or who knows what happens with all of the cars on the lead lap these days.
If there is a problem and we're close to it, all of a sudden you're going to wonder where the other three guys are at because we are all pretty tight in the points.
But I think, really, the 48's kind of had control of the thing pretty good all year. And I think we realize without a problem, we're not going to beat him on performance. I think they have been first or second for five weeks in a row, so that's pretty stout.
So I think we are going to go out there and just approach it like any other week, try the best we can and see what happens during the race.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's the same, you just go out and you do everything that you've been doing, and really, nothing else that you can do. 48's been good week-in and week-out. If smog happens, you guys are going to be in trouble because you won't have anything else to write about.
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, for us, we're in a situation where we really don't have anything to prove anything else for this whole season.
You know, it's been a great season for us, and whether Jimmie has problems or not, you know, we're going into this weekend thinking that based on performance, we can finish second or we can end up fifth in points. So we've just got to continue doing the things we have done all year, and the biggest thing for us is not putting ourselves in a hole like we have for the past few weeks, other than Phoenix. We've been a lap down or something and had to battle back at the end of the race for the last four or five weeks in a row. We don't need to put ourselves in a hole at the beginning of the race if we are going to be contenders by the end of the day.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We're just going to go in there and try to lead on laps and win the race and whatever happens with the points happens with the points. I think it's pretty safe to say that odds are not in our favour, but we have a great shot to run well, so we'll do the best we can.
DENNY HAMLIN: Me and Junior have in this case named this table the Slim Chance Table. (Laughter).
Q. Kevin, you've had one of the best seasons anyone has ever had, winning the Busch championship and now a chance to win the NEXTEL Cup championship, too, can you talk about what the season has meant for you, doing what you've done for Richard Childers racing this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Obviously going into this year, we didn't know whether everything was going to go. That was one of the reasons why I raced the Busch car, just to give me something to fall back on, you can get away from a lot of things running the Busch car and getting away from a lot of things at the racetrack while you're in the car.
You know, to go out and win a championship, and we won as many races this year as I've won in my whole career on the Cup side, we've won 14 races between the two cars. That's a pretty good year regardless of whether we win this championship or not.
It's been great to be a part of. I know from our standpoint, our teammates have run good and everybody is communicating well together and the organization has taken a 180-degree turn from where it was last year at this time.
It's hard to not get greedy at this point and say, you know, we want to win the championship. But if we don't, it's been a great year for us and a great turnaround.
Q. There is a lot of money out there to be won, is there a mentality of running second for your sponsor and for your team and for the money?
MATT KENSETH: I think not just the money, but you always want to do the best you can do. You always want to finish as high as you can, and you don't have the best year as you can, finish as high as you can in the race and in the points.
Certainly there is a pretty big money difference and that trickles down to the whole team. It trickles down to bonuses with the guys and drivers and the car owners and everybody, and so obviously we all want to do the best we can. I wouldn't worry about Jimmie losing that million bucks. He won a lot of races this year, he won it back in the Daytona 500 and some other stuff, so I don't think he's hurting.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think for us, it's the same thing. We just want to go out and do the best you can. Obviously we know that we need to go out and be aggressive this week to try to lead laps and try to win the race.
So you know, if that works against us in the end, fine. It's okay. As long as we go down trying to do what we need to do.
DENNY HAMLIN: For myself, within the team, kind of have a little bet going on. Stewart finished fourth his rookie year and I'd like to better that. Yeah, there's always a little rivalry, competition with the teammates.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I think we've got a third-place finish I think a couple years back, so we'd like to at least equal or better that.
Q. For the Slim Chance Table, how aggressive can you be knowing where you are in the points, can you just kind of go for it knowing you don't have anything to lose?
DENNY HAMLIN: For myself, we're looking back and I think sixth place is 160-some back. So performance-wise, we shouldn't fall back to sixth. If something bad happens, we could.
But, you know, we're looking at we're tied for third or fourth in points and you know, we can move forward but the way we look at it, we can only move back one, based on performance, so we're just going to go all out with it and pretty much run every lap like the last.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I think we're going to have the 2000 in the right rear, so I'd be going for it for us. (Laughter)
Q. Dale, if you don't win the championship, a year ago you were in a very different position right at this point, how do you assess this year if you don't win the championship?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm real proud of my team. I've had great cars every week and that was something I hadn't had in the past. We all got along really good, and even during the bad times and we struggled last week and we still just kind of, you know, that was the best we could do.
You know, just real happy with my team and how my cars have drove, and it really makes me look forward to the future with this team and you know, how we can run next year, year after that and whatnot.
It's great to be racing these guys here for the Chase the last nine races. And have being able to be competitive, that's really all I've ever wanted, so it's been great. Really been one of the better seasons for me.
Q. Talk about the fact the new format was installed after you won your championship, is there any motivation in trying to win it under the new Chase for the Cup format?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I've never heard that before, but -- (Laughter).
But I think for anybody, that would be cool to be able to do that. You know, Stewart was able to do it both ways, so I think I'm certainly thankful for all of the years that we had of being competitive, but certainly winning the championship that year was a pretty cool thing and obviously whatever format we're under now, or what we'll have in the future, you'd like to be able it do that, too. All of our goal every year is to try to win races and try to run for a championship. So I think whatever format do you it in would be great.
Q. Anything extra special for qualifying knowing what's at stake?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I don't think so. Just the same stuff that we've been doing. I really think, and as everybody else has pointed out, we're all in different situations competing for this championship, but we all need to go out and do the same job we've done all year long, and that's what's put all of us in this position.
Tomorrow, we're going to do whatever we can to make it just a normal day of qualifying and practice.
MATT KENSETH: I don't know what our problems with the cars are. We haven't ran as good lately as what we ran earlier in the year for sure. Why that is, I don't know exactly. If I did, we'd figure out, you know, what it was and try to fix it.
But we've honestly been a little behind as a company this year. I think everything kind of works in a cycle and last year everybody was running great and we were kind of the last one of Roush Racing to get running good, and this year it's been the opposite. We've been running good and everyone he is has not had quite as good of a car.
I think some of that is catching up with us. I think we have some rebuilding to do next year. We still have good stuff, same stuff we've been running. We've been trying to improve a little bit but probably got behind a little bit on some of our stuff.
Q. Do you just not have a good poker face?
MATT KENSETH: I don't have a good poker face.
No, I don't know, sometimes you get feelings about things, and I just haven't really felt good about it the last four or five weeks. We ran really good at Dover and we ran good at Talladega and pretty decent at Atlanta. But other than that, we haven't really performed very well, so I haven't felt good about it.
Testing, we seem to run a little bit better and we seem to find maybe some of the things that we've been doing wrong, and just, you know, it's been a while since we've had a real strong run and I think we're kind of overdue for it. You just never know what's going to happen.
It's kind of nerve-wracking for all of us. Jimmie has been outperforming us all, or almost all of us most of these weeks throughout the Chase. But anything can happen with that lucky dog rule and some of the cautions that we get with all of them big pieces of debris out there, Robin, when we get some of that. (Laughter) That keeps a lot of cars on the lead lap. And when you have a lot of cars on the lead lap and you have some kind of problem, you know, you can lose a lot of positions in a hurry.
I think it will be exciting down to the end, even if Jimmie is running in the Top-5 all day. I think it will still be exciting and I think it will be nerve-wracking for the leader and for the rest of us because you know any lap, anything can happen. I think I'm excited to be part of it and it's 400 miles of action and, you know, who knows what's going to happen.
Q. This weekend, the Busch Series is done, you've already clinched, so this is like the victory dance so to speak. Do you want to be remembered as the Busch Series champion, or how would you like to be remembered?
KEVIN HARVICK: Any time you get in the car, you want to win and we've been able to win a lot and we probably won't ever get to do what we've been able to do this year again. It's probably the last time we'll ever run both series.
I think from my standpoint, I've been a part of RCR's Busch program from the beginning and it's been really good. I know from the time the year started, we've had things go our way, and we've performed well. When you have all the stuff on your side as far as that goes, it makes it a lot of fun to go to the racetrack and be a part of it.
We've just tried to enjoy it. How you remember it is, you know, up to you and I think from our standpoint, we're just happy to be where we are and have done what we've done.
So I guess I should just say it; I don't care how anybody remembers it. If they want to, they can come look at the trophy.
DENNY HAMLIN: For myself, we thought that what Kevin should do is the last five races is just sit on the back stretch with no one around him and his arm around the trophy and just watch us race. Just say, y'all go around, I'm done.
No, his season's been unbelievable. It's frustrating from our standpoint because as a team, we know we're not at the level that RCR is at right now in the Busch Series. You know, we're close on a good day. But usually when he passes me, I know that will be the last time I see him.
Q. Talk about the whole journey, not just this year, but looking over your career, what have been some milestones or obstacles that have put you in front chair today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: My biggest challenge looking back, there's plenty of them, but I think the biggest is a lot like -- a lot of the guys up here and guys racing Saturday nights across the country is just getting recognized.
Growing up in southern California ten years ago or whatever it was when I really started pursuing stock car racing, it wasn't what it is today there. People weren't looking in the dirt series. Jeff Gordon just got going, but this was before Tony Stewart. It was before a lot of guys in general moved out to the Charlotte area. Being recognized and getting that chance was really the toughest thing, and I think that's a common problem that a lot of drivers have.
I was very lucky to get hooked up with Standing Randy Herzog while I was racing off-road trucks and they provided my chance in ASA and in Busch. I don't think I would have had either one much those opportunities if it wasn't for their commitment to me and their own goals of racing and trying to make it to the Cup some day. And then I was picked up by Hendrick Motorsports.
Being recognized, and the Herzogs really made all that come together for me I think.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, because that's racing and we all go through it. When I look back on the year, I know that everybody in the garage area will respect what the 48 team has done regardless whether we have a championship or not. If you don't get the championship trophy, I think all of us are after respect from the media, from the fans, competitors and things like that. I think we have earned that this year.
We've been a threat and been there week after week, been able to win the big races, we've overcome adversity and we've put ourselves in a position to race for a championship. And that's something I'm very proud of, regardless of the outcome and things I can't control; I'll sleep well Sunday night knowing that we tried as hard as we could and we did all that we could.
Q. Who worries you the most of the four guys sitting next to you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Myself? First has to be Matt, closest in points. It just really boils down to the spread that you have to cover and the position that I'm in.
From where Matt, if Matt leads most laps and wins the race to where I need to be and there's one scale for Matt and the next for Kevin and right down the line, it kind of goes in that order.
Q. For the other four drivers, talk about waking the fine line of being aggressive and not going over the edge, how do you balance that?
MATT KENSETH: I didn't see any of it, so I'm just going to pass it to Kevin, he was part of that.
KEVIN HARVICK: For me, it was win the race or wreck. So I knew -- I kind of knew where he was at. I mean, obviously you don't want to put anybody in that position. But knowing that we needed to gain the most amount of points that we were in, the position that we were in to have a chance to get to here, you know, you just kind of throw it all out there and see what happens.
So you know, it's just go for it.
Q. Will you go for it or stay back?
KEVIN HARVICK: Probably stay back. That's what I would have done.
DENNY HAMLIN: I was in third. I told him he should have gone for it.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you were the first one in the car telling me that, too. (Laughter).
DENNY HAMLIN: Like I say, if I was in Jimmie's standpoint, I'd do the exact same thing he did. We don't know how much he held back or you know was just that much better. But, who knows, you've just got to think about where you're at at all times and think about the risks that you take. I know I was in that position with Jimmie at Martinsville and I chose even though we were going to lose more points, we could have lost a lot more had we been more aggressive.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Judging by my past experience, I probably would have went for it (laughter) and it probably wouldn't have worked out. (Laughter).
When you're in Jimmie's situation, I haven't never been in that situation, but I imagine that you're very cautious. Like Denny said, you really don't know how good Kevin was or how much if any Jimmie was holding back. I'm sure if he saw a window to win the race, he would have had a hard time remembering where he was in the points standings.
Q. The four guys that are chasing you, any thoughts of a mind game that you might be able to start today or tomorrow, anything to upset these guys and get them off their normal game?
DENNY HAMLIN: He's already having mic trouble. (Laughter).
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is, it's a lot easier to race from where we're sitting. If you want to stuff it in there and see what happens, I mean, that's probably not what you should do with, you know, a 65-point lead, I would imagine. That's what I would think. We're really the underdogs here. We are looking for a miracle to happen and we're going to go out, you're not going to do anything on purpose or anything like that because you don't want to fault the integrity of the sport and everything to get to this point.
So I think you go race as hard as you can, but we're in totally different shoes here. He's racing to protect something and we're trying to make something happen.
Q. Is it fun to race at this point, or is it just business?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Inside the car is fun. The rest of this we could do without. That's what we all look forward to.
MATT KENSETH: I'm having a lot of fun, just so you know, a lot. (Laughter).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Matt is known to have a lot of fun in these settings.
We like being in the race car, that's what we do. I know can say from my own experience as a kid, I've always watched football games and just respected guys like John Elway, Marino, guys that closing minutes of a game could get it done.
I always wished that I could have that ability, and being in our sport and all of us being champions at different levels and winning races, we've all got to perform. We've done that to get to this point.
So I think we're all more comfortable in the car doing our thing than we are with the other stuff leading up to it.
MATT KENSETH: For me, it's fun being part of the group. I know we all strive to be the best and strive to win and do all that stuff. So I think growing up stock car racing, you know, you wanted to be part of the group and race on Sundays and be part of that group is pretty cool and then being able to be part of the Chase and then being one of the five guys that have a chance to win, I mean, that's awesome to be part of that group.
Would it be the best feeling would tin it? Yeah. But still it pretty cool to be part of this group. It's like the couple of year that is Dale Junior kicked my butt in the Busch Series. It wasn't great to finish second and third but it was a lot of fun racing him all year and being part of that and being up in the top two or three all year and racing him for wins. We became good friends doing that and that was fun to be part of that.
So I think any time you're a part of something to run for a championship at a level in a sport like this, it's a lot of fun.
Q. For in most part you're a fairly likable guy --
JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughter) Thank you, Jenna.
Q. -- it seems lately the booing of you is louder; why do you think that is?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know, but I know riding into the 8 car doesn't help that any. (Laughter) I've made mistakes, and restrictor plate tracks, worked out for me for a while there and made adjustments and corrected that. You know, it's part of it and I've used this a million times and I know you've heard it and other people. When you go to a sporting event, your team comes out, you cheer for them. When the opponent comes out, you boo them. It just part of it.
We can't deny the fact that if you look at the statistics I'm probably fourth, fifth, sixth in licensed merchandise sales; so that would probably reflect in the cheers and boos.
(Whispering and laughing from other the drivers.)
What's up over there? (Laughter)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: (Laughing) there's this video over on the Internet of one of my fans that I was going to send to you. It after the Talladega race, this guy is in his kitchen. The family is camcording in his kitchen and the guy is like a Dale Junior fan and after the race, he goes crazy. You just had to see it. (Laughter) We was just laughing. Didn't mean it interrupt you.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Evidently that family boos me. (Laughter).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It was funny. I'll send it to you, it's hilarious. You'll like it. You'll like it a lot.
KEVIN HARVICK: Someone sent it to me yesterday and I was like, that was one of the funniest videos I've seen. Even the toddler was ripping you. (Laughter).
MATT KENSETH: The stuff has not been as good as it was last year on a whole by any means. There's been changes, a driver change and a couple crew chief changes. Some people moved around, we lost some people, we got some new people.
You know, I think it's kind of a little bit of a rebuilding process right now, but I will say that with all of the rules and all that stuff, the competition is tighter than ever I think, and it doesn't take very much to get off. So you get behind a little bit in a couple areas and you're going to be mid-pack, sort of mid-pack.
You know, I don't think it's anything where we're in big trouble, but certainly as a group, we haven't been as strong as last year, and there's some things to address this winter, changing crew chiefs again and hopefully we can get some stuff together and get it going again.
Q. The sequence over the last couple of weeks -- inaudible?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know. It's the last week. Like I said, I think we've got to run good sooner or later. I'm sitting between Kevin and Jimmie, which I think Jimmie is five straight top twos and Kevin won the championship by like 3,000 points in the Busch Series and just won last week so, maybe some of it is rubbing off on me and I'm feeling better about life, I don't know.
But, I don't know. I just feel good about the week for some reason. I don't know why. I felt bad about the last bunch of weeks and I was right, so hopefully I'll be right again. (Laughter)
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